Basketball / Euroleague / Maccabi Tel Aviv survives scare in Spain
Ohayon's late threes help preserve 85-80 opening win.
Yogev Ohayon drained a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter, helping Maccabi Tel Aviv avert a second-half collapse and prevail in Spain against Malaga 85-80 in their Euroleague opener on Thursday.
Maccabi had led by as much as 16 points in the second quarter, but Malaga made two separate runs to tie the game in the third and pull within two in the final period.
Ultimately, Malaga could never get back into command.
Ricky Hickman paced Maccabi with 16 points. David Logan scored 14 points for Maccabi, 10 of them in the first half.
Maccabi dominated most of the first half, outshooting Malaga 58 percent to 38 percent from the field, though it finished under 50 percent. The team also demonstrated the kind of ball control coach David Blatt wants to see this season in contrast to last year, with an 11-4 assist-to-turnover ratio over the first 20 minutes. That statistic would also crumble in the second half, when Maccabi had only five assists against eight turnovers.
The game did not start out ideally for Maccabi, however. Malaga felt the charge of the home crowd, reeling off the first five points of the game. Malaga still led 16-12 before Maccabi took control of matters. Hickman nailed a three-pointer to spark a 13-1 Maccabi run. Txemi Urtasun buried a trifecta with 12 seconds remaining in the quarter - Malaga's only field goal of the final 4:48 minutes of the period - to narrow Maccabi's lead to 25-20.
Tel Aviv continued to play superior ball in the second quarter. A lay-up by Shawn James stretched Maccabi's lead to its largest of the game at 41-25. Malaga started to fight its way back, yet could not whittle the visitors' lead to single digits as the two teams entered the locker rooms at halftime with Maccabi leading 47-36.
Maccabi pushed its advantage back to 15 points and still was up 56-45 when Malaga made its move with a nine-point run. An errant intentional foul call then benefited Maccabi when Girogi Shermadini got hacked under Malaga's basket. He iced four straight free throws and then Guy Pnini hit two more to give Maccabi breathing space, but Malaga surged again to tie the game at 63-all. Logan hit a pair of free throws to put Maccabi back up just before the end of the third quarter.
With eight minutes left and Maccabi holding onto a 69-65 lead, Ohayon seized the moment. He grabbed the rebound and exchanged the ball back and forth with Lior Eliyahu before knocking in his first three-pointer. Seventy-nine seconds later he drilled another one to make it 75-65, Maccabi to remove the sense of imminent collapse.
Malaga did reduce the lead to three with 26 seconds left, but Hickman hit a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach.